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Is the Tooth Fairy doing too much? How parents can push back on the pressure to shower kids with cash, gifts.

A parenting expert weighs in on the Tooth Fairy and pressure some parents are facing. (Getty Images)
A parenting expert weighs in on the Tooth Fairy and pressure some parents are facing. (Getty Images)

L'Oreal Thompson Payton is a mom, journalist and motivational speaker. She's also the author of Stop Waiting for Perfect.

Not to sound like the grandpa from Rugrats, but back in my day, the Tooth Fairy left you a fresh dollar bill and you were happy with it. These days, kids are more likely to get $5. (Or $5.84, to be exact — a 6% decrease from last year’s $6.23 — according to Delta Dental’s annual Tooth Fairy Report. Yes, such a thing exists.)

While some parents may be cutting back on the Tooth Fairy’s spending, others are living it up and lavishing their kids with extravagant gifts, such as this parent who gave their daughter $50 cash and a host of other items, including toothbrushes, candy, press-on nails, a tiara and bubbles, for losing her first tooth. Meanwhile, last month, the Wall Street Journal reported on a mom who shelled out $100 for her child's first lost tooth (and then $20 for each subsequent tooth); another set of parents gave their daughter, along with cash and other gifts, a Louis Vuitton bracelet, purchased on the day the little girl was born.

Now, I’m not trying to be a Grinch. I totally understand what a big deal losing your first tooth is and though I don’t have to worry about my own daughter hitting this particular milestone for several more years, I definitely don’t plan on blowing my bank account to celebrate said occasion — but to each their own. That said, there’s no denying the pressure these social media stunts put on parents, as well as the unrealistic expectations they set for kids. So, what’s a budget-conscious parent to do?

Reena Patel, a parenting expert, psychologist and licensed behavior analyst, advises parents to keep calm and carry on. “When you lose your first tooth, everyone’s so excited and it’s a huge milestone, so it’s natural for parents to want to give a bit more,” she says. “The challenge is that then becomes the baseline and that expectation is in place. It’s like receiving a paycheck and then the next time getting a lower one.”

To help combat that guilt (and protect your wallet), Patel recommends having conversations with your partner or co-parent, if you have one, to set expectations between the two of you before having a discussion with your child. If you want, this is an opportunity to do things differently from what your families of origin did and create your own family tradition. Once you’ve landed on a plan of action, you can share with your child what the Tooth Fairy does in your family so that your child also knows what to expect.

“Whatever you end up creating needs to be consistent and needs to be consistent among all children in the family,” she adds. “So you could say, ‘Our family tradition is getting a note or $5 from the Tooth Fairy.’”

If you want to add a learning element to your family’s Tooth Fairy tradition, you can use it as an opportunity to teach kids healthy habits. A brand-new toothbrush featuring their favorite cartoon character might get them excited about practicing good dental hygiene, and any cash gifts can pave the way to conversations about the importance of saving money.

When your child inevitably comes home and tells you a friend got $20 from the Tooth Fairy, stand strong in what you’ve already decided and remind your child of your family’s tradition. If you want your child to have more say in what is received, consider having your child create a Tooth Fairy wish list with items under a certain amount.

“If you start the expectation that they’re going to get something bigger with every tooth, you’re going up that ladder and you’re going to be overwhelmed,” says Patel, recalling parents who would write a letter from the Tooth Fairy each time. “It quickly becomes daunting and then it becomes, What if I forget? What about the disappointment? Whatever tradition you put in place, you want to be able to keep up with it.”

While it’s certainly tempting to give your child the biggest and best gifts within your budget, this is a situation where less may actually be more.

“You don’t have to feel the need to buy things that can’t even fit under the pillow. It’s really more about the tradition and the excitement of growing up,” says Patel. “When talking to teens about that time, it’s the memories they cherish and the experience — not whatever big item they got or didn’t get. The goal is to create a sense of belonging.”

Want insight on a parenting or family health topic? Reach out to L'Oreal on Instagram or X, or email heylifeeditors@yahooinc.com with your question, and it may inspire a future column.